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Right Theory

Right Theory

By Ashley Herber 

Ring theory helps you know what to do when you or someone you know is experiencing grief, trauma, or a crisis situation. Psychology Today summarizes this theory in the following steps: 

  1. Draw a circle. In this circle, write the name of the person at the center of the crisis. 
  1. Now draw a larger circle around the first one. In this ring, put the name of the person next closest to the crisis. 
  1. In each larger ring put the next closest people… 
Photo by Psychology Today.

The person/people in the inmost circle can say anything they want to anyone about the situation. If you are talking to someone in a ring smaller than yours, your purpose is to provide help and comfort; if you are talking to someone in a bigger ring, you may vent and look for comfort. It is perfectly normal to want to complain or cry or tell someone about how you feel, just do so to people in bigger rings. [1] 

The point is to “comfort in, dump out.” 

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An example of ring theory in action might be if you have a friend who lost someone close to them, is going through a breakup, or has a serious illness. Your friend is at the center, so it is your job to listen and offer comfort—you could offer to go on a walk, bring food, or send a text. You do not give unsolicited advice, tell them they are making you sad, or complain about the situation to them. Following ring theory makes sure everyone receives comfort in their time of need, and no one makes a bad situation worse for others.  


  1. Premack, E. (2017, May 30). Ring theory helps us bring comfort in. Psychology Today.  
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